Good evening from a very hot and sultry Cheshire,
We’ve been working incredibly hard on the final proofs and formatting for HITCHED TO THE ITALIAN. We’re waiting on the buy links from all the distributors, and those can take time, but I’ll post them asap.
I’m also 20K into the next Nico & Bronte story STORM IN A ‘B’ CUP, which is the most fun I’ve had writing in a very long time, and I cannot wait to bring this one.
Here’s the next part of Desert Captive.
by CC MACKENZIE
Copyright © C C MacKenzie 2018
After a six hour sleep and plenty of cold water splashed on her face, Bella felt more like her old sparky self, and put down her temperamental state to baby hormones.
She noticed someone had left her a tray of refreshments.
The ache in her belly told her junior was hungry, so she poured herself a glass of ice cold juice, pomegranate, and helped herself to a little hard cheese with luscious figs and fresh fruit.
It struck her the plane had begun to descend.
She looked out a window, but could see only darkness.
Surely if they were approaching Quarram’s cosmopolitan and capital city, she’d see lights?
Before she could organize her thoughts, the door opened and Sarif entered.
He wore a heavy black Thwab edged in gold and a ceremonial besht.
On his head he wore a gold cord Igaal.
His face looked as if it was carved from solid granite.
Beneath brooding brows, he stared at her, his grey eyes probing her face.
“You have been crying.” Frowning now, he placed an expensive looking hooded robe of ivory wool on the bottom of the bed. “If I upset you, I apologise, but I want no misunderstandings between us. While you carry my son, it is my duty to attend to your wellbeing. No more arguments. They are not good for the baby.”
Why those words should hurt so bad, Bella had no idea.
He’d laid his opinion of her firmly on the line, and so had she of him.
Shame he refused to listen, never mind believe her.
“You have judged me and found me wanting without listening with an open mind to what I had to say. I am not ashamed. I have told no lies,” she told him woodenly, misery creeping over her like a noxious cloud that seemed to shut out her ability to remain calm and professional.
Where were all these feelings coming from?
Jeez, what was with the pregnancy hormones?
“You need to be realistic about our marriage. I have set the boundaries…”
“Fair enough,” she shot back. “But you have decided to punish me for sins I did not commit. When you’ve had enough of listening to your own voice and come down off your self righteous soap box, I expect a lengthy apology.”
“Is that all you have to say to me?” he roared, and right then Bella decided that if he raised his voice to her one more time, she’d swing for him.
She stood, long legs spread, her fists on her hips.
“You know something, Your Majesty, I find myself stuck in that place between—I really don’t want to antagonize you and I want to punch you in the mouth.”
“There will be no violence in our relationship,” he said through gritted teeth.
“Then you’d better wind back the bad temper or I won’t be responsible for my actions.”
He shifted and went nose to nose with her.
And God, he smelled amazing.
She held her breath and focused on the subject at hand.
“I find when someone claims saintdom, the bigger horns they are hiding.”
Well, she was certainly no saint.
Then again, nor was she a sinner.
“What do I have to hide?”
“Why were you crying?”
“I’m pregnant. It’s hormones. At the moment I’d cry at the opening of an envelope.”
“Admit it. I upset you.”
“You are not worth the price of my tears.”
He opened his mouth to respond, and then obviously thought better of it.
When he lifted the robe from the bed and offered it to her, she simply stared at him in silent enquiry.
“Wear this. It is cold in the desert at dawn.”
She turned to the window and saw the early grey light, the promise of a new day.
“Yes. You will be safe here.”
All at sea, she shrugged on the robe, and wondered what on earth he was talking about.
“Yes. We are about to land at the private airfield of my winter palace.”
The winter palace was deep in the north of the country.
Near her brother?
“Why not the city?”
“The news of our marriage will be a huge shock to my people. If you remember I had already announced our engagement when you ran away like a coward. Many officials are aware you left Quarram under the cover of darkness. They see your reluctance to marry me as a personal slight upon their King.” The ceiling lights flashed along with the ding of a bell. He held out his hand. “Come, we must take our seats. We are about to land.”
Bella shot him a tense troubled glance, and took his hand.
Then she wished she hadn’t because she couldn’t work out how his touch felt so right when everything between them was so terribly wrong.
As they walked through the outer office, the skinny man she’d seen before watched her out of the corner of his eye.
Normally, she wasn’t a fanciful or overly-sensitive sort of person, but the guy truly gave her the creeps.
Sarif stopped and turned to him.
“Hafar? Has everything been prepared?” Sarif asked in English.
The small twist of Hafar’s thin lips was supposed to be a smile, Bella reckoned.
She was fascinated by the fact that as far as Hafar was concerned, she might as well be invisible.
“Indeed, my Lord. Everything is as you instructed,” Hafar responded in Farsi.
In response, Sarif nodded once, as if he expected nothing less than his will be done.
They continued down the aisle, took their seats, clipped their seatbelts and the plane descended sharply.
Bella stared out the window and all she saw was a vast wasteland.
Then she saw two lines of lit torches dug into the sand.
But it was the long line of horsemen, six deep and dressed from head to toe in black that had her breath hitch.
She swung around to find Sarif watching her closely.
“What are they doing here?”
“They are here to protect my queen and my child.”
He leaned into her, his eyes fixed unblinking on hers.
The scent of him seemed to wind around her and draw her in.
His gaze dropped to her mouth, and just like that her nipples peaked.
“Perhaps from herself?”
At the clear challenge in his tone, she turned to study the vast horizon stretching as far as the eye could see and at the tents, the horses, the goats and the men, women and children, who had come to welcome their King home.
In that moment, she’d never felt so alone or so far from home.
As the stewards moved to open the jet doors, Sarif took her hand.
“Cover your hair. Put up your hood,” he muttered.
He waited until she’d obeyed his request before leading her to the top of the flight of stairs.
As soon as they appeared a great roar came from the crowd.
Women lifted their voices in a eulogy of sound.
And when Sarif brought her hand to his mouth and kissed her knuckles, the roar only grew.
Although his country was in many ways blessed with great wealth, there were desperately poor people in Quarram. Not as many as when he’d first come to the throne.
But one was one too many as far as Sarif was concerned.
These people, his people, who greeted him now were people of the desert.
They were lean and mean.
The men had guns and belts of ammunitions strapped across their thin chests.
Hundreds of dark eyes, filled to the brim with suspicion, watched Bella as he led her down the stairs and into the back seat of an all-terrain vehicle.
Dusty-haired toddlers clung to their older brothers and sisters.
Once settled in the back seat of the car, he turned to study Bella’s pale face.
He knew she must be wondering why on earth he had brought her here.
If he was a gentleman, he’d tell her why.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t feeling polite this morning.
“Have you considered my offer?” he asked her now.
Those dark eyes flashed into his.
And just like that he went rock hard.
“Neither me or my child is for sale,” she snapped.
“Every human being on this earth has a price.”
She lifted her chin.
“How much did your French mistress cost you for her to walk out of your life?”
“My past is none of your business.”
His words had brought a flush to her cheeks.
“I apologize. You are correct. Your past is none of my business,” she said with a bloody-minded determination he was coming to admire. “But you had better remain faithful to our marriage while we’re in it. I do not share.”
Well now, wasn’t this interesting?
It seemed his reluctant bride was willing to share his bed.
Something deep and visceral inside him seemed to want to celebrate with a joy he found hard to contain that she wanted him.
He studied her slim figure, swathed within soft cashmere.
The robe could not hide her long legs.
Her breasts and hips were hidden so he could not understand why just looking at her lovely face, that full bottom lip and those dark brown eyes turned him on to the point of pain. He wondered how long it would take for him to discover the secret of her overwhelming attraction, how long it would take for him to weary of her and start living for the day he could seize upon his freedom again. He never stayed with a woman longer than a couple of months and even then on the most casual basis. Now, he realized, that with a child joining them together, forever, he was about to face an incredibly steep learning curve, and so was she.
“So,” she whispered, her dark eyes wary. “How is this thing going to work between us?”
Sarif moved closer, a sparkling sort of intensity and great power forcing him towards her. Gleaming eyes studied her strained face.
“Where it all began. Me determined to have you, and you backing away…”
Bella’s breath caught in her throat because her physical reaction to him was not normal.
Hell, she was a kick-ass, so why did she want to shrink from this man?
“I scare you,” he murmured, obviously able to read her body language.
And didn’t that just annoy the hell out of her?
“I’m not scared,” she told him in a tight little voice, but she knew, he knew, she was lying through her teeth. And right now her whole body was in a state of conflict. Too much adrenaline was humming through her system along with a well-honed and well-trained inner alarm system which rang inside her baby, befuddled brain. She wanted to hold him and she wanted to push him away because she just knew, pushing men away felt like a natural reaction rather than wanting to get one naked. Yet, she was desperate to get him naked. Hell, she wanted him to do things to her she had never wanted before, and all of those feelings seriously messed with her training and common sense.
Yet, she simply could not deny the frissons already inflamed that he sat so close fought with her inbuilt warning device. Her skin prickled, her breasts pushing against the constraint of her bra as her nipples became too tight too fast. Her mouth went dust dry. Just taking a steady breath became virtually impossible while her body already over sensitized with pregnancy, struggled to fight the wave of heat rising from her pelvis.
“You must know I will never hurt you,” Sarif whispered, his voice a low husk, wrapping a strong arm around her with an almost lazy strength, arching her back to trail slow kisses across her cheek and down to her jaw.
Then with an abruptness that made her cry out loud, the world spun sickly.
White dots danced in front of her eyes.
A cold sweat beaded on her forehead, upon her top lip.
And her belly went tight.
“What is it?” she heard Sarif’s voice as if from a long way away. “Arabella?”
There was a buzzing in her ears, as if a million bees were inside her head, and then the world went dark.
Ooooh, looks like trouble ahead.
Keep an eye on my next post, it will be the links for HITCHED TO THE ITALIAN, and I cannot wait for you to get your sticky fingers on this one. My editor and proofreading team just love it!